A fungus capable of breaking down cotton and other fibers could hold the key to improvements in the production of biofuels.
Researchers led by Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute announced this week that the genetic sequence of the fungus Trichoderma reesei has uncovered important clues about how the organism breaks down plant fibers into simple sugars.
The fungus is best known for eating through uniforms and canvas tents during World War II but that appetite could mean a more efficiently and cost effective way to convert corn, switchgrass and even cellulose-based municipal waste into ethanol.
“The sequencing of the Trichoderma reesei genome is a major step towards using renewable feedstocks for the production of fuels and chemicals,” said Joel Cherry, director of research activities in second-generation biofuels for Novozymes, a collaborating institution in the study. “The information contained in its genome will allow us to better understand how this organism degrades cellulose so efficiently and to understand how it produces the required enzymes so prodigiously. Using this information, it may be possible to improve both of these properties, decreasing the cost of converting cellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals.”
The research paper was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on Monday.